WEST HARTFORD — West Hartford Public Schools are “on track” to offer its secondary school students full in-person learning, potentially as soon as March or April, according to a recent announcement from the district’s superintendent.
“Assuming our current trends continue, I expect us to return to every day at our middle and high schools in March, or if the decline slows, perhaps April, when we can do it safely for our students and staff,” Superintendent Tom Moore wrote in a letter last week.
Moore listed some “reasons for hope” in his letter, including reductions in COVID-19 numbers, progress on vaccines being produced, the possibility of school staff joining the groups that can get a vaccine, and the fact that “our most vulnerable populations are being inoculated.”
“I do not have a definite date yet,” Moore wrote. “We will continue to monitor our decline in cases, as the amount of COVID in the community is in and of itself a key mitigation strategy.”
West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District preliminary data reflects a decline in the town’s COVID-19 case rate. The case rate — which uses two weeks of data to calculate a rate per 100,000 residents — stood at 22.9 from tests between Jan. 24 and Feb. 6. Until the most recent two-week span was added, that marked the lowest it had been since the two-week period between Nov. 8 and Nov. 21, when it stood at 17.4.
The health district’s case rate differed from the rate the state recorded for the town — 23.3 — in that Jan. 24 to Feb. 6 span.
As far as eligibility for the vaccine goes, teachers aren’t currently on the state’s list of those who can get a shot. Per the state’s website, officials are expecting to put out further information on who would be classified as “(f)rontline essential workers” and when they could claim a slot within phase 1b.
Moore also noted that people have reached out to register their support for in-person instruction, or shared a desire for the district to pursue “more virtual learning” as COVID-19 variants emerge. Just this week, the state shared news of someone from Fairfield County who had contracted one of the variants.
“Many tell me we should do this right away, and that ‘The CDC and the Biden administration say we should reopen all schools,’” he wrote. “The fact is that the vast majority of the country is trying to get to where West Hartford is right now, with students in full time in elementary, and coming for full weeks at a time in secondary.”
Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance called safe reopenings “critical,” and mentioned measures such as proper, widespread mask use, people maintaining their distance from one another and washing hands as tools for cutting back on school transmission.
“We will still have modifications and follow a daily schedule that we do now, as lunch is still a significant issue at these large schools,” Moore said of the return to all in-person instruction in secondary schools. “I expect streaming will continue, not just for those in quarantine, but for some whose situation might necessitate it.”
Remote learners would proceed as they have been.
“If the variants cause a dramatic increase in cases we would not be able to move forward, but I hope that continued efforts to limit spread, as well as an increasing number of vaccines will help to control these variants before they get out of hand,” Moore said.